The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism has announced a number of moves designed to promote Nay Pyi Taw as a tourist destination, but industry insiders say there is a ways to go before the capital attracting many holidaymakers.
Initiatives are targeted at promoting the capital as a destination for MICE – Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions – as well as a place to visit independently, a press statement said.
Nay Pyi Taw underwent a hotel build in the lead-up to the city’s role as host of most large ASEAN events last year. With with the rotating chair now moved on to Malaysia, some of the facilities are now significantly underutilised.
Daw Khin Than Win, a director of the Tourism Promotion and International Relationship Department, said the government wants to make full use of the infrastructure that has been developed in Nay Pyi Taw, including its two convention centres and multiple hotels.
“We are planning excursions for tour operators, and we hope they will distribute knowledge and information about Nay Pyi Taw,” she said. The ministry is also planning other promotional events and golf tournaments to raise awareness of the location.
Minister for Hotels and Tourism U Htay Aung said in the announcement the city has its strong points.
“There are two International Convention Centres and [many] hotel chains operating here. The infrastructure is in place, such as sufficient electric power, good internet access and communications, no traffic congestion and attractive MICE package rates,” he said.
Tourists have so far overwhelming used Yangon as the main point of entry by air. In 2013, Ministry of Hotels and Tourism statistics show 817,699 arrivals at Yangon, about 80 times the 11,842 people entering through Nay Pyi Taw.
Connections to the capital by air have been lacking, though airlines including Apex, FMI Air and Air KBZ are working to increase connections to the city.
Air KBZ is planning to begin Mandalay to Nay Pyi Taw flights.
International carriers have a mixed record flying to the city, with some ending connections to the generally underused Naypyidaw International Airport. Bangkok Airways currently flies between Thailand’s and Myanmar’s capitals five times a week.
Some tourism professionals have questioned the plan to promote Nay Pyi Taw as a tourism hub.
Ma Kay Khine, owner of Caravan Myanmar Travels and Tours, said there are few tourism destinations in the city’s vicinity, adding those that do exist such as the Naypyidaw Safari Park and Water Fountain Garden are not particularly exciting.
“International audiences are not interested in Nay Pyi Taw. Even the locals aren’t interested now,” she said. “But if they can make more attractive places like eco-trips to the nearby forests and Ngalike dam, tourists will be interested.”
She added people like to attend events, forums and seminars, but they appreciate other facilities to liven up their trips.
U Phyoe Wai Yar Zaw, chair of Myanmar Marketing Committee and Managing Director of All Asia Exclusive Travel Company, said it will take a partnership between public and private enterprise to building Nay Pyi Taw into a successful MICE destination.
“Rome was not built in a day,” he said. “We need to work harder if we really want Nay Pyi Taw to be a MICE destination.”
While the hotels and convention centres are there, a number of products need to be built, including fine dining options, bars, and even entertainment such as go-karts to give business visitors a chance to network and relax in off-hours.
“Meeting facilities alone cannot ensure a successful destination. There is a need to create activities for business people,” he said.
– Additional reporting by Jeremy Mullins